The Punisher 1: Discussion

by Ryan Desaulniers and Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ryan: We all know Frank Castle’s deal: a veteran whose family was unceremoniously gunned down takes to arms in a one-man war against crime or for whatever cause he sees fit to fight for. In the numerous Punisher stories since his inception in 1974, and particularly since the seminal Garth Ennis PunisherMAX run with the character, writers have been trying to find ways to connect a man who commits so many reprehensible acts of cruelty and murder with an audience. Castle sports the label of “anti-hero” to an audience that consumes his stories in various mediums, but writers keep pushing to see how far his character can go and still elicit sympathy from the readers, using different tactics to do so. The Punisher 1 by Matt Rosenberg and Szymon Kudranski, however, leaves all of these devices behind, giving us a Frank Castle title that is bereft of almost any means of identifying and excusing Frank’s actions, save for the fact that Castle fights against even more villainous figures. Continue reading

The Symbiote Stands for Addiction in Venom 2

by Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!


If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict.

William S. Burroughs, Junkie

Is it possible to explain addiction to someone who has never been addicted? The closest parallel I can draw is the deep, resounding heartache felt when ending a long-term relationship, when the hurt is so big that it is all-encompassing, physically affecting you, turning your stomach, switching your brain off from rationality. Maybe that’s close, but there’s plenty less stigma associated with heartbreak than addiction and its corresponding mental health cycles. Different forms of media endeavor to bring addiction out of the shadows and prove that it is no indication of a flaw in a person’s character, but even a well-told story like that of Requiem for a Dream might offer the non-addict a catharsis based upon their security in never living that experience as opposed to an understanding of those who have. Venom 2 offers a compelling look at a character in a narrative rife with addiction imagery and symbolism which might just lend a window into the life of someone struggling with their relationship to a substance. Continue reading

Lazarus 27: Discussion

By Spencer Irwin and Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: An interlude is meant to be a break, a diversion, something different from the norm. In the case of Lazarus 27 — specifically billed as part one of a two-part interlude — it means that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark are taking a break from the story of Forever Carlyle to instead focus on her brother Jonah. Jonah’s adventure isn’t just an interlude for readers, though; it’s one for Jonah as well, a chance for him to experience a lifestyle far different than anything he’s ever seen before. Unfortunately, like most interludes, I fear this experience may be a temporary one for Jonah. Continue reading

Family in Descender 29

by Ryan Desaulniers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family…

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

How do you define “family?” The answer to this may differ drastically depending on a number of factors, but as subjective as the idea is, many social and medical science disciplines use “family” as a basic unit of study. A UNESCO report claims family to be “a kinship unit and that even when its members do not share a common household, the unit may exist as a social reality.” That strikes me an appropriately broad definition, but could we include robots in it? Descender 29 returns to the “present” after three issues chronicling the first interactions with the eponymous machines which may have created organic life in this universe to a galaxy on fire, but despite the huge plot pieces moving here, the development and dissolution of family units takes center stage. Continue reading

Exiles 1: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell and Ryan Desaulniers

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Mark: The best teams are made up of strong, diverse personalities that bring out the best in each other. This is especially true in fiction. The individual members don’t need to always get along, conflict drives any story, but a certain baseline level of respect is necessary. One of the most impressive feats of team building in recent history has to be 2012’s The Avengers. Looking back with full knowledge of the incredible success Marvel Films has achieved almost unblemished since Iron Man ten years ago, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that The Avengers worked at all, but at the time it was incredibly risky. Going back and watching The Avengers now, the first two-thirds of the movie drag quite a bit as writer and director Joss Whedon works to establish the team dynamics, but that groundwork was necessary not just for the first movie, but for the Marvel Films team-ups to come. Again, we take for granted now that all of these characters can seamlessly interact with each other, but that’s only because the hard work was done by that essential first Avengers film. In Exiles 1, Saladin Ahmed, Javier Rodriguez, and Alvaro Lopez begin the work of building their own superhero team, and, like The Avengers, their patience in this premier issue sets them up for long term success. Continue reading

Authenticity in Sex Criminals 23

by Ryan Desaulniers

Sex Criminals 23

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

[He] felt he had to choose between being a failure and being a fake

Because going against our natural inclinations can make us feel like impostors, we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable.

Herminia Ibarra, The Authenticity Paradox

“Authenticity” is a big, nebulous word. I normally encounter the concept in the realm of art — whether it be performance or otherwise — as an indicator of a work’s sincerity or the artist’s commitment to an original, unique vision, but there’s no rubric or scale to truly measure these values. The same can be said about authenticity in one’s personal life. How can one accurately and honestly gauge whether their actions or behaviors come from one’s natural, earnest inclinations when any given person, on their journey through life, undergoes so much change due to a litany of reasons? At what point can the quest for authenticity become a detriment to further development instead of being a welcome pillar of deeply-held tenants? Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals 23 reads as a very busy issue, featuring an array of close-ups on the characters of the series, and these moments succeed in showing the struggle for authenticity, though these moments occur within a messy-feeling broader plot. Continue reading

Daredevil 600: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Ryan Desaulniers

This article containers SPOILERS. If you have not read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: Where does power come from? I’ve been seriously grappling with this one since Trump was elected to the White House, but this question obviously extends waaaay beyond that fucking monster. Does power ultimately come from money? From social connections? From one’s willingness to sacrifice their friendships? From violence? From non-violence? As the battle between Wilson Fisk and Daredevil reaches a fever pitch, questions of where either of them gets their power are posed right alongside the question of where Daredevil 600 gets its power. This is a six-hundredth issue, after all — so what makes this one special? Continue reading

Kill or be Killed 17: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Kill or be Killed 17

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Don’t bury the lede.

Journalism, Traditional

Drew: Is journalism the opposite of storytelling? Maybe these terms are too sticky to parse, but it’s interesting to me that one of the cardinal rules of journalism — putting the most dramatic part of the story at the start of the article — is essentially the opposite of the basic narrative structure, where the climax arrives very close to the end of a story. Actually, the difference may lie less in where the “climax” (for lack of a better word) occurs as where it’s allowed to occur. While narratives tend to have the climax in their final act, it is by no means as hard-and-fast a rule as “don’t bury the lede,” and precisely where the climax fits in that final act is decidedly more flexible than absolutely, positively occurring in the first paragraph. It’s a simple matter of the purposes of these art forms — the kinds of tricks storytellers use to surprise us or keep us in suspense are totally inappropriate in a newspaper article designed to inform us of what happened where. And it’s those wrinkles in form, unique to storytelling, that make Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Kill or be Killed 17 such a delight. Continue reading

Infidel 1: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Ryan Desaulniers

Infidel 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

Drew: I’m not sure there’s anything we fear quite like the unknown. Whether it’s xenophobia or just things that go bump in the night, every fear is defined by the things we don’t (yet) understand. And while our society has legitimized the former (effectively forgetting that it’s as nonsensical as the latter) all fears spring from that same well of the unknown. Which is what makes Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s Infidel so alluring; they’ve brought those fears back together, using supernatural elements to illustrate the more pressing real-world fears its characters live with. Continue reading

Gideon Falls 1: Discussion

by Ryan Desaulniers and Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

…nothing is so alien to the human mind as the idea of randomness.

John Cohen

Ryan D: Pattern recognition plays an integral role in the human cognitive process, with comic books being a particular medium which simply wouldn’t work without that ability to see and recognize patterns in visual symbols, icons, and shapes, as our brains wrestle a slew of static visual images into a narrative. The images are coherent because they are created together purposefully to be consumed in relation to each other. However, the human brain can still find patterns where there is no direct correlation. In 1958, the term “apophenia” came into being to describe that ability to take unrelated things and tie them together with connections which might not exist. We can observe this phenomenon every day in the form of confirmation bias, or, in more extreme cases, the claims of paranoid schizophrenics who may find the most benign details to be irrefutable proof of a grandiose conspiracy. So what happens if two seemingly unrelated people in different parts of the world — one embroiled in this hunt for clues in an outlandish pattern, the other just trying to adjust to a new life — both find the horrifying answer to what seems to be delusion? Herein lies the crux of Gideon Falls 1 by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, backed by a decorated team on colors and lettering of Dave Stewart and Steve “SWANDS” Wands. Continue reading